Thu, Jul 11, 2013.
Back in April, at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl asked the question that has perplexed many in 2013, the group's Annus Miraculous: "When the f... did Rush become cool?" Then Grohl provided the answer that fans like him have long known: "Rush have always been cool!"
Not just cool, but hotter than ever. The band started the second leg of the Clockwork Angels tour just days after the Rock Hall celebrations. That album returned them to the top of the charts, #1 in Canada, #2 in the U.S., ridiculous for a rock band in these times of hip-hop and nu-soul dominating the charts, equally shocking for a group formed in 1968. The 2012 tour was one of the top-grossing rock events of the year, and this year's dates have seen them sell out across North America and through Europe. A deluxe edition of their iconic 2112 release from 1976 actually saw that album re-enter the charts as well. This isn't a group riding on its past, going out on anniversary tours, this is the work of a hot, current, and yes, cool band.
The Clockwork Angels tour has its only Maritimes dates this weekend, a Friday night show at the Metro Centre in Halifax, and a second one Sunday night, added after the quick sell-out and great demand for the first show. It see the band moving ahead, adding major new components to their sound. For the first time a string section became a major part of the album, and then the tour. Folks that have already seen a show have raved about all of it, including the amazing technical features.
And now that Rush are officially cool, people are starting to figure out that the fan base isn't all teenage boys and nerdy guys who were teenage boys in the 70's. Take, for instance, this concert-goer who saw last fall's Toronto show. Gillian Turnbull is a 30-something music expert, not self-proclaimed, but a real one. She holds a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology, teaches at Ryerson, and is a specialist in Western Canadian country music. She also blogs for the influential No Depression on-line mag. And she's a not-so-secret Rush nut: "I think I started listening to Rush when I was about 19 or 20," she says. "So I've waited 15 years to get to see them live. I have never been more excited for a concert; I got to my seat just as the lights went down, I held my breath, and then there they were. Right in front of me! And then I started screaming. I adore Geddy Lee."
"You'd think, after 40 years in the business and with their international stature, that they'd be doing short tours of one-hour greatest hits shows. Not so. This one was four hours long, and they work it hard from start to finish, with tons of new songs."
It's worth the pilgrimage to Halifax, if you can make it work Sunday. There are still tickets for that extra show, and hey, you'll be cool, they're Ph.D. AND teenage boy-approved.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).